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Apple MacBook Review: Part 1

Apple MacBook Review: Part 1
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I never had a good reason to switch to a Mac.  Windows NT, 2000, XP, and Vista x64 had all served me well.  My systems were always hand-built with the best-of-class components. For almost a decade, the only motherboards I used were from Abit, Asus, DFI, Gigabyte, Intel, or Tyan. The only memory modules in my system were from Corsair, OCZ Technology, or Intel-supplied FB-DIMMs using Micron or Samsung modules. My preferred power supply manufacturers? Silverstone, PC Power&Cooling, and Corsair.

With these components, my home-built systems were rock-solid, running months at a time, requiring a reboot only after installing new video card drivers. Building my own PCs also meant robust overclocking capabilities. I had been a student of the black arts of overclocking during an era when changing the bus speed meant unsoldering a physical crystal on the motherboard. Socketed crystals were a revelation, and I couldn’t have imagined a world of BIOS-controlled clock generators and the granularity of tweaks available to us today.

I had also adopted robust security practices. My PC was double NAT’d with my ports closed down. I had purchased Vista Ultimate to run Vista x64 to minimize the risk of rootkit exploits and to ensure secure timely updates and patches. I kept my system updated, downloading hotfixes even before they showed up on Windows Update. I was using Symantec Anti-Virus Corporate Edition, relying on the best available data from av-comparatives.org to make my decision rather than hand-waving and conjecture. 

While Windows made up the bulk of my day-to-day use, I was still well-versed with alternative operating systems. I had dabbled with BeOS R4 in college and my academic research in medical school required software running IRIX 6.5. Between Windows, UNIX, and Linux, I never saw a need to add a Mac to my system.

Everything changed on October 8, 2008. To this day, I still don’t have all of the details. My computer had been on all day, but I had only been on the Internet for a few minutes, when I suddenly began receiving a flurry of emails to my account. They were all spam bounce-backs coming to my email. My first thought was that the reply-to headers were being spoofed or that the SPF filter was defective. I started checking the headers and my heart skipped a beat--the spam was truly coming from my system. In a move worthy of a Hollywood film, I rushed for the master power switch on the PSU and shut the whole thing down. 

Not yet willing to admit defeat, I pulled the hard drive from my desktop PC and brought it to a clean PC, hoping to identify the malware that had infected my system. Nothing showed up. I tried the Symantec Rapid Release updates and several other anti-malware suites. The system was reported as clean. October would be the month where Microsoft would patch several critical vulnerabilities and it would later become clear that I had been hit by a zero-day exploit.

For a PC user since 1985, starting with a PC clone powered by a NEC V20 CPU, this was the first time I had seriously been affected by malware.  What if the malware had reached into my address book and sent spam to my boss or co-workers?

I had three options, all of which would require considerable amounts of time. One was to reformat the HDD and start with a fresh install of Windows Vista. It’d be tried and true, but it was still going to take a lot of time to redo the whole thing. I could switch entirely to Linux. I had already switched from IRIX to Linux several years ago, so I was already comfortable managing and troubleshooting Linux systems. Unfortunately, I still needed a system capable of running the Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office. Open source alternatives to Adobe Creative Suite didn’t have the same quality or capabilities that I needed, while OpenOffice lacked the same multi-core computation capabilities that Excel offers for some of my more complex spreadsheets. The third option was to try switching to a Mac.

The timing couldn’t have been better; Apple was planning to update their notebook line the following week. I’d pick one of the notebooks up, give it an earnest go to see if a die-hard Windows and Linux user could switch to the Mac and document the whole thing. I’d play with the Mac for a month and then give the notebook away to my parents. When Core i7 desktop processors were available in greater quantities, I’d rebuild my Windows PC then.

I had no plans to switch from Windows to Macintosh permanently. All of my data had been stored on NTFS-formatted external drives and all my applications were for Windows. I was too careful, too savvy, and too poor to switch to a Mac.

It was only supposed to be an experiment. 

It was only supposed to be one month. 

But it happened anyway. I’ve switched to a Mac.

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  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 26 January 2009 17:38
    Why when comparing Macs do people always use Dell as the comparative standard. I'd rather buy a mac than a dell any day but I'd rather buy a pc than a Mac in general.
  • 2 Hide
    tinnerdxp , 26 January 2009 18:56
    Another Apple advertisement, when will people finally see the big picture?
    Just some facts though:
    1. "...systems were rock-solid, running months at a time, requiring a reboot only after installing new video card drivers." and then "...secure timely updates and patches. I kept my system updated, downloading hotfixes even before they showed up on Windows Update." - Most of the updates on windows require a reboot - how come the author states the he kept up to date and then state that he only restarted when changing video drivers - something is not right
    2. "I had no plans to switch from Windows to Macintosh permanently. All of my data had been stored on NTFS-formatted external drives and all my applications were for Windows. I was too careful, too savvy, and too poor to switch to a Mac." - If so really? Then why Mac? Why the formatting the drive process would be too time consuming? Why Vista in the first place? Why not linux and run the Adobe within the VM? Or at least build your system so things like this take 20 minutes to restore...? A Power User switching to a Mac because of ??? Design? Higher price to pay? outdated and less powerful components? Lack of easily available upgrades? Lack of ability to upgrade your laptop yourself? And I don't quite get the bit where the author states "... and too poor to switch to a Mac." and then says that he opted for the most expensive SSD version of MB... Then again - how did you actually get into troubles in the first place? Did you browse the web using InternetExplorer? which is commonly known as a "malicious-code-magnet"? Come on - antivirus software will not protect you from "user-errors"... Installing updates is one thing, browsing the web in a secure way is another... Ever heard of Firefox? Or Opera? How about some examples of the sites that made your box a part of a botnet? And why do you think switching to Mac is better than to Linux? Then again - why do Apple fans always praise the multitouch touchpad and "great" keyboard and then buy an external keyboard from Microsoft and external mouse from Logitech? Not to mention that quite a bit of text was about the beautiful screen of the mac and then again - I bet (only assuming though) that the power user will always use an external screen... But the most important thing here I think is...
    Why would a power-pc-user switch from a high-end-desktop to a laptop?
    Again - something is not right... I hope the part 2 of the article will shade more light on the issues above...
    Kind regards
    tinner
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , 26 January 2009 19:10
    I prefer this article http://hubpages.com/hub/Geforce-9-Series
  • 0 Hide
    Belinda , 26 January 2009 19:22
    Every single Mac review article on this site now seem so "Heres a Mac, write an article about it and if it's good to us keep the Mac".
    Can't deny apple stuff looks nice but the price for what you get beyond that isn't so hot.
    Dell = overpriced junk, Mac = overpriced junk. No wonder they always find the prices about the same. Built it yourself = cheaper and a lot better.
    This is a tech site not your local electrical superstore..It's what performance you get for your money NOT how one overpriced item stacks up against another overpriced item.
  • 0 Hide
    LePhuronn , 26 January 2009 21:26
    I didn't even get past the first page before the Mac advert kicked in...the author went scurrying for a Mac just because his meticulous security had been compromised once? Does he rush inside the house and never come out just because his umbrella let a few drops of rain in?

    Now that Apple are using stock Intel hardware, you can now finally compare Macs and PCs like-for-like, and in every single OBJECTIVE comparison the Mac will always lose out now - overpriced for hardware or underpowered for price, whichever way you look at it the only reason to go Mac is Jobs-sucking and perpetuating elitism and snobbery (and I get that so often in my profession it's sickening).

    I hate to use Dell as a comparison, but spec a Studio XPS identically to the 15" MacBook Pro and you're paying £500 extra just for a fancy aluminium body and a glass touchpad - even the multitouch features are software-driven!

    So I agree with Belinda, it's what you get for your money and with a Mac you simply don't get enough to justify the cost.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 26 January 2009 22:20
    Go to apple store , buy a copy of mac osx, patch it and install it on ur pc and everyone is happy. No more viruses!
  • 0 Hide
    aron311 , 27 January 2009 00:56
    Its against the OS X license to install it on your PC. Can ONLY install it legitimately on a Mac.

    I would like to see the 7200RPM Hard Disk you mention added to the comparison table, you are comparing an OEM junk drive to something far superior. I'd like to see what adding a sensible hard disk would do to the performance.

    Interesting that the 7200RPM unit you mention uses less power than the standard 5400RPM one supplied.
  • 0 Hide
    Annisman , 27 January 2009 02:12
    All I can say is that when my 22 year old sister bought her first laptop....a Mac... I lost alot of respect for her. With that being said, I understand why she bought a Mac

    1.Fashionable 2.it's the 'cool' thing 3. ignorance/unknowledgable about what she is buying 4. she is most likely using it for constant facebook usage.

    Now with that being said I would like to point out (espescially to the author) that if you are not a 16-24 year old FEMALE then you have absolutely NO exscuse to be using a Mac, whereas ny sister does.
  • 1 Hide
    CrazySi , 27 January 2009 02:19
    I couldn't agree more with other readers of this article, Yet another Mac advert. I am fed up with SMUG Mac users and their claims we don’t get viruses. If OS X is so secure why then does Apple recommend using multiple antivirus products?
    The vast majority of malicious infections are written for some sought of financial gain, so it’s obvious that the coder would spend their time targeting PC's as they make up 90% of the market. However now Mac's are becoming more popular because of their "style icon" status they are being targeted. This is especially the case because of “the Mac's don't get viruses” idea so few people bother to put any kind of security product on. (lots and lots of unprotected Macs to exploit)
    For someone that has been using a PC from 1985 you seem to have done some somewhat dumb things. Firstly why kill the power to the PC just pull out the ethernet cable and if you still want to shut the PC down properly.
    Symantec Anti-Virus Corporate Edition is just that it’s for a Corporate Environment that exists behind a dedicated HARDWARE firewall and runs through a Server! Not for your home PC, this is what NIS 2009 is for. In my job I often see laptops that have come in for repair with infections on that are running Corporate Edition that have been taken home (therefore outside of the secure Corporate Environment) where they are much more vulnerable. These laptops often pick up similar infections to the authors and it is a relatively simple (and a whole lot cheaper option) to press F8 start the computer in safe mode with networking and install various Free antispyware products like Spybot update them and clear the infection that way. The reason you couldn't clear the infection by taking the hard drive out and scanning it on another PC is Malware has got a lot smarter and if the infection isn’t active (i.e. running on the PC at the time) then most if not all security products are unable to detect it.
    If the above didn't work then so long as this experienced user had backed up his data it would have taken approximately an hour or two at the most to format the drive and start again. Had you have been smarter still you could have either created your own recovery disks to restore the PC to how you like it with all of your software and settings installed(and then just had to put your personal files back on from your backup) or you could have restored from a Home Server image!
  • 3 Hide
    LePhuronn , 27 January 2009 02:25
    @annisman:

    Slightly disagree with you on the "No excuse for using a Mac" as there are some very good media industry applications that only come on a Mac. For instance, a lot of high-end DVD and Blu-Ray production suites (such as DVD Studio Pro) only come on OSX. Now, Adobe Encore covers me 99% of the time but when I've had to use multiple camera angles and a lot of the DVD spec that goes unused, only DVD Studio has done it for me.

    Autodesk Combustion and Apple Shake both give Adobe After Effects a serious run for its money in the motion graphics arena.

    However, unless you are a high-level media professional and require such specific software (and therefore a Mac to run OSX legally) I entirely agree there's no real reason these days to go Mac unless you're "trendy" and have more money than brains.

    I'd even disagree on the fashion statements given that the Sony Vaio range and even some of the new Dell custom case designs are directly more fashionable (with the labels to match) than a lump of aluminium.
  • 3 Hide
    LePhuronn , 27 January 2009 02:30
    @CrazySi:

    I think you've hit the nail on the head and put the credibility of this entire article into question: a supposed power user of PCs with enough knowledge to run the claimed security setup wouldn't freak out and take such drastic measures just because they'd been infected with a spambot - that's what my mother does.

    Furthermore, anybody who's been around a virus infection knows about proper antivirus tools (and therefore wouldn't even have Symantec or McAfee anywhere near their systems) and spyware removal.

    Maybe the opening line of the article should read "I never had a good reason to admit to being a Mac user...until Jobs put his unibody aluminium penis in my mouth"
  • -1 Hide
    pete3867 , 27 January 2009 02:47
    I have a macbook pro and there are some things that are better than windows in osx , i.e .......well s"£t I can't really think of any . I got mine free btw , I run xp on it with bootcamp , ses it all really dunnit
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 27 January 2009 08:20
    I had that once... I got a lot of emails that appeared that they came from my PC... then I found out that spammers tend to do that now... they spoof your own email. If spam looks like it's sent your your email then it usually gets past junk email and is harder to identify as junk. Looks like you formatted Windows for nothing! :( 
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , 27 January 2009 15:04
    I have to agree that ducking your head and running for a mac is a little hysterical when you computer gets a virus - most viruses are relatively easily removed with a little knowledge (ie a computer professional) While Apple computers do have some tangible advantages in ease of use, a lot has to be said for support in the rest of the world that is not serviced by a nearby mac store. For someone living in New Zealand (no we are not completely backward) it is not really a logical option to go for a piece of hardware supported only by 1% of technical staff. In most of the world Apple computers are sold at retail stores (similar to circuit-city, wal-mart) where there is little or no support, perhaps a tollfree number to tech support in india.
    This should be a major factor in purchasing any hardware be it a LCD tv or a refrigerator.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , 27 January 2009 15:04
    I would like to have choice of screens, matte or shiny I personally find shiny annoying. I am not saving lives with my computer, I think it says somewhere on the licensing agreement not to save lives with computers!
  • 1 Hide
    Biggayal , 29 January 2009 03:42
    I think a bunch of these comments are really thoughtless. I'm not a Mac fanboy, my main machine is not a mac. I have a Vista/7 Desktop, a XP laptop and netbook and an old eMac. At Work I admin about 30 PC's, mostly XP and a few Vista, and about 30 Macs, mostly iMacs. I know both systems relatively well.

    Personally I prefer using a PC. I think PC's get a hard time in the press from people who dont really know what they are talking about. BUT, in many areas Macs are better, and it really irritates me when people say they are for fashion conscious idiots with too much money who dont know how to use a pc. Give me a break, anyone who has spent time (not five minutes at your buddies house) with Macs knows they are great machines for many/most applications.

    Get an education or keep your mouth closed and listen. If you have something technical to add, for or against Macs or pc's then mention it. That is why I come to this site. If you think telling us macs are for girls then save it and tell your facebook buddies instead.
  • 1 Hide
    pete3867 , 29 January 2009 05:41
    QUOTE
    I think a bunch of these comments are really thoughtless. I'm not a Mac fanboy, my main machine is not a mac. I have a Vista/7 Desktop, a XP laptop and netbook and an old eMac. At Work I admin about 30 PC's, mostly XP and a few Vista, and about 30 Macs, mostly iMacs. I know both systems relatively well.

    Personally I prefer using a PC. I think PC's get a hard time in the press from people who dont really know what they are talking about. BUT, in many areas Macs are better, and it really irritates me when people say they are for fashion conscious idiots with too much money who dont know how to use a pc. Give me a break, anyone who has spent time (not five minutes at your buddies house) with Macs knows they are great machines for many/most applications.

    Get an education or keep your mouth closed and listen. If you have something technical to add, for or against Macs or pc's then mention it. That is why I come to this site. If you think telling us macs are for girls then save it and tell your facebook buddies instead.

    yeah , I have to agree , even tho I did have a pop at macs earlier on , osx is a very good os , it just lacks software support , and macs are easy , straight out of the box , as the ad goes , I think that although they are a little over priced they are very well designed , space saving and they hold their value better than p.c's . I use bootcamp and xp mainly because I can't run dragon naturally speaking on osx , but the fact that osx has such attention to detail that windows hasn't (such as better networking , not needing codecs etc) makes it a very attractive os . on the other hand I think windows is a deeper , more customizable os , they could both learn a thing off each other , windows 7 ,from what I,ve heard , borrows from osx leopard
  • 1 Hide
    dgris , 30 January 2009 15:57
    I agree with other commenters. How can such a power user allow a single security breach to brick his PC? Makes no sense and he certainly doesn't get my respect.

    Part of PC ownership is becoming educated in what not to do. Since most viruses written target Windows then the average PC user (hopefully) learns to not use Internet Exploder, maintain a good-quality antivirus/antispyware program and have a backup and restore strategy. Therefore I'd argue that when we see more viruses written for Macs the user community will have to learn good habits that competent PC users take for granted.

    I don't view Macs as either better or worse, just different. Like anything, choosing a Mac or PC is a question of assessing the strengths and weaknesses and choosing what compromises you can live with.

    If a user chooses Mac for reasons other than practicality then more power to them. Don't ask me for tech support, and don't drag me into Mac vs. PC conversations. I'd had my fill, thank you.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , 1 February 2009 22:31
    i'm fed up wid these MAC adverts (read reviews) .... and jus because his security failed him once , doesnt mean he has to run to mac ... so an "expert" as he calls himself , jus gives up after one attack ...

    if u must know , i run my computer WITHOUT an anti-virus or any other fancy security software ... its still running GREAT ... and its not a MAC .... :p 
  • 0 Hide
    durandalreborn , 11 February 2009 14:01
    I suppose you get these kind of comments when you post an article about Macs on a computer hardware site. I feel like anyone who reads these articles are hardcore PC enthusiasts. The responses to this article are just as fanatical as those from Mac fanboys responding to PC articles. Give it a rest. Use the system that works best for you. If someone wants to use something else, they're entitled to do so. Mark me down or whatever, just stop and realize that many of you sound as crazy as Mac fanboys.
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